Here’s an interesting column by one of our favorite newspapers, the Sankei Shinbun, famous for its anti-foreigner slants. Their columnist, Okabe Noburu, Senior Reporter for Diplomatic Issues, links a lack of language ability in foreign reporters to their tendency to hold “anti-Japan” biases. In a meandering column that brings in all sorts of anti-immigration slants itself, Okabe finally reaches the conclusion that maybe Japan might make language tests a condition for visas for foreign correspondents. That way they’ll have a “correct” view of Japan. Without any intended irony, it seems that Okabe, who seems to claim competency in English (enough to pick on ethnic accents in English), holds biased views himself despite.
Okabe: After the war, because English people don’t like manual labor, they brought in immigrants from former colonies, such as Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, but recently there has been a huge influx of people from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, so British society’s multiculturalization and multiethnicification has been proceeding. The immigrant problem is one of a history of empire. The English spoken by this variety of races has several “country accents” mixed in, so it’s hard to understand. Even English has been hybridized.
When I applied for my visa I had to take an English test. As language ability had not been demanded of me as an exchange student in the 1990s or during my half-year posting in Russia in the 1990s, this struck me as odd. However, after being dispatched, I came to the painful realization that understanding England meant first acquiring the language.
Before being posted, I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. I was pained to see foreign reporters who couldn’t function in Japanese broadcasting their “anti-Japan” slants to the world. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for foreign correspondents getting a visa? It might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.